Messaging app Telegram has long been popular in Russia and has thus far escaped the crackdown aimed at other tech companies. That's despite the fact Telegram has been used extensively by Ukraine's government to broadcast President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's rallying cries and to disseminate videos of alleged Russian prisoners of war. Founded by Russian-born Pavel Durov, the app promotes itself as a service free of restrictions and censorship and rarely removes content. However, RT and Sputnik say their Telegram channels are being blocked in Europe, and Russian authorities have demanded Telegram take down videos and other information about Russian service members in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, many Russians are outfoxing the bans by turning to virtual private networks, or VPNs, to access blocked social media networks and news sites. VPNs are widely used to get around internet restrictions in places like China. Demand for VPNs in Russia was 2,692% higher on Mar 14 than it was in the week prior to the invasion, according to Top10VPN, a privacy monitoring service.
It's not easy to get a clear picture of what's going on with tech companies in Russia. The Kremlin's directives against online platforms can be vague or confusing and on-the-ground reports from Russia about how social media and other apps are working vary.
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